The Department of Health has confirmed that Kells & Connor Medical Practice is to be saved from closure.
The Department said on Thursday afternoon, 13 April that it is "delighted to confirm that a new GP contractor has agreed to take over Kells and Connor Medical Practice, Ballymena."
The statement continues:
"The new contractor is Dalriada Urgent Care which also provides GP Out of Hours services for the Northern Trust area.
"The Dalriada Urgent Care proposal was made in the last few days and will provide stability for both the patients and staff of the practice.
"This means the practice will not now close and its patients will not have to be allocated to other GP practices in the surrounding areas. Patients of the practice can disregard correspondence issued in the past week about the planned closure.
"The Department very much regrets the uncertainty experienced in the local community.
"A letter advising patients on the new GP contractor will be issued. Patients should continue to contact their GP practice as usual."
Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann and Cllr Keith Turner, have welcomed the news that a new contractor has come forward to take over the local medical practice.
Keith Turner said:
“This will be a great relief for the patients and staff of the Kells and Connor medical practice. There had been huge concern over recent days that the practice’s 4,000 patients were going to be dispersed out across a range of other neighbouring GP practices, many of which are already operating at above maximum capacity levels.
“From the news was first announced that the current contract holder was retiring, Robin Swann and I have been engaging regularly with the senior officials at the top of the Department of Health. We also met the Permanent Secretary at the start of the year and again two weeks ago and during each meeting we stressed the need for a sustainable outcome to be found.
“I had hoped that this would be the outcome, but it wasn’t always certain and it certainly wasn't without its challenges. As a patient of the practice, I look forward to working with the new contract holders and ask that the people of the village support them as they settle in, to secure the long-term future of the practice.”
North Antrim MLA Robin Swann added:
“This has been a deeply unsettling time for both the patients and the staff of the medical practice. There were real and genuine concerns that had it been allowed to close that it could create a domino effect for primary care pressures across the wider area.
“Thankfully, this has been the outcome everyone was working towards, and it will now be on all of us to support the practice and the staff.
“I, along with all the other local patients, am sincerely indebted to Dalriada, who have taken over the contract and have worked at speed with Department officials to make this possible. Part of the challenge was meeting the time frame of finding someone in only three months and therefore I do believe that as a wider policy, especially in the case of practices with a single GP contract holder such as Kells and Connor, this needs to be reviewed.
“Unfortunately, not every challenge the health service faces results in a positive outcome, but this is one that we should all be thankful for.”
Other local political representatives have also welcomed today's positive news.
North Antrim TUV MLA Jim Allister said:
"I greatly welcome the news from the Department of Health that a new GP contractor has agreed to take over Kells and Connor Medical Practice, Ballymena.
"The new contractor is Dalriada Urgent Care which also provides GP Out of Hours services for the Northern Trust area. The Dalriada Urgent Care proposal was made in the last few days and will provide stability for both the patients and staff of the practice.
"Though it was a long struggle which caused much upset and worry to patients, it is good that finally the crisis this was imposing on the twin villages and area has been resolved."
Local TUV Kells council candidate Matthew Warwick added:
“The dismay and upset the pending loss of GP services in Kells and Connor has caused in recent weeks was immense. So, I’m delighted that the community and political campaigning has paid off. I trust this this will now provide stability and certainly to these vital services.”
Alliance North Antrim MLA Sian Mulholland has said it is a relief a GP practice near Ballymena has been saved from closure after new management was found to run it.
“This news has come as a relief, not least to the many patients who have contacted me recently expressing concern,” said Ms Mulholland.
“They were worried about many things, including repeat scripts, ongoing medical conditions and prenatal care. They will be comforted to see the situation resolved without any changes needed to their routines but it is also regrettable the undue stress this will have caused patients across the wider Ballymena area.
“I will be meeting the British Medical Association and Royal College of GPs soon to discuss this matter. It is vital we continue the conversations about the capacity of our local healthcare provisions to provide the service people need.
“This shows once again how urgent restoration of the Assembly and Executive is, to enable us to discuss long-term strategic interventions to rebuild our health service.”